The New Now. How one Augustan is coping.
Like most of you (I hope), I have been socially isolated for some time now. How is everybody doing? Has it been a week already? What day is it? Who’s counting?
My blues tend to come at sundown. With my dog and cat for company, I’ve been looking for productive and healthy ways to bide my time. In the last few days, I have played guitar, painted, read old journals, read two books, pitched some stories, ordered take out from local restaurants, checked in on friends via text and FaceTime, and have noticed how much more poignant it sounds when the birds chirp. Today I noticed that my frenetic rhythms had settled into something more peaceful. Tomorrow, it might feel different.
I can usually find peace in the mindful rhythms of walking, so during the day, I’ve been walking my dog around the neighborhood a lot. For the first few days of isolation, we went on as many as three walks a day.
Everyday I see more people out walking with their dogs, partners, and children in otherwise uncrowded spaces. I like this new rhythm. Sometimes we wave or converse, mindful of the physical distance between us. The other day I let my dog choose our route and we covered four miles of roads I don’t usually walk.
On Saturday afternoon, I went for a run on the canal and stopped at the meadow to sit in the heat and look at the river, distantly surrounded by others doing the same. The space by the river seemed quieter than usual even with other people there. I felt less self-conscious even though I wasn’t alone; maybe because I knew I wasn’t alone.
The collective chorus on Facebook has largely shifted from political grandstanding to finding ways to help each other in this time of need. A few days ago, I sent a Venmo donation to musicians Taylor Swan and his girlfriend Mary Scott Valentine to record Rodney Crowell’s “You’ve Been on My Mind” by request.
The video showed up on Facebook that evening, an antidote to the blues that had been coming. I encourage others who are able to do the same for our local artists and musicians.
If you are looking for an antidote to the blues or boredom, for something entertaining, vaguely informative or not, here are a few recommendations of things I’ve recently liked or always loved:
Listen to an album all the way through: My favorite is Phases and Stages by Willie Nelson. It is Nelson’s Abbey Road and ranks with his album The Redheaded Stranger as one of the best concept albums of all time.
Read a book: The other day I joked that now is a really bad time to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy if you haven’t already. McCarthy’s prose is as bleak, sparse, and stark as the post-apocalyptic world he describes. There’s an ongoing glimmer of hope, though, and the last passage of the book is my favorite last passage ever written. Now might be as good a time as any to read it.
Watch an uplifting video: On December 10, 2016 Patti Smith was asked to perform at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony on behalf of Bob Dylan, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Surrounded by royals, laureates, and dignitaries, Smith performs “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” Dylan’s surrealist song about what it means to be alive: how to be among a world of suffering and transcend it. When she flubs her lines, we see the true humanity of kings and queens, including Smith herself.